How Will Detonation Engines Affect Space Tourism?

Umit Yelken
Nov 9, 2020 · 3 min read

New generation detonation engines are fascinating. Detonation engines are now among the fields of study of many institutions and universities, such as the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The rotating detonation engine, which was previously considered only as a concept and did not work towards product extraction, is currently working on product extraction.

The first group of studies was involved only with the detonation wave’s axial direction using the pulse detonation engine. However, one of the biggest problems of the pulse detonation engine was the method used. In this method, the cycle proceeds as follows. First, the fuel and oxidizer mixture is sprayed into a tubular combustion chamber. Then the ignition is done. As a result, the burning speed increases while passing through obstacles, and detonation occurs. An attempt is made to increase the Cf value, which is one of the rocket parameters using a divergent nozzle. However, the main problem here is that this cycle takes a lot of time, and the operating frequency of the engine drops. Although new mechanisms are designed to fill the combustion chamber faster in some studies in this area, there are still disadvantages, such as the engine’s very noisy and low-frequency operation.

On the other hand, the rotating detonation engine stands out as the version of all these problems. In this type of engine, combustion takes place radially. The most significant advantage of these engines is that the frequencies can reach very high values. Unlike the pulse detonation engine, thrust can be obtained continuously. Therefore, engine noise is lower. Besides, it is possible to work with higher mass flow rates.

In light of all this theoretical information, we can answer what will change detonation engines in the future. First of all, an increase in efficiency of up to 30% has been observed in theoretical studies. LUNDET-7 engine of Detonation Space company provides fuel savings around 30%, and mass of engine structure is reduced. We can give a simple calculation on the Falson-9.

The Falcon 9 fuel capacity is approximately 518,400 kg, and the payload capacity is 22,800 kilograms ( If we implement LUNDET Rotating Detonation Engine to Falcon-9, we can save about 155,520 kg from fuel alone. As a result, we can increase the useful load capacity to approximately 6.82 times. This means a considerable cost reduction, and the total payload capacity of eight missions can be reduced to only one mission. The cost savings here are approximately $ 388 million, considering the cost of a Falcon-9 launch of $ 57 million.

New types of rotating detonation engines seem to open up all the doors of space tourism. Nowadays, the space adventure from Earth to Mars can reach even further with these rocket engines.

Detonation Space company continues to work in this field. We get very positive results in our tests. And we announced for the first time that a rotating detonation engine would meet the sky as the main rocket engine in 2021.